Ravens regular-season moment No. 9: “He seems to always be around it”

June 11, 2020 | Luke Jones

Check out the No. 10 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.

Ed Reed never made a reception or logged a rushing attempt in his 12 NFL seasons.

He returned only 30 punts.

But no one was more dangerous or exciting with the football in his hands over the Ravens’ first two decades in Baltimore than the Hall of Fame safety. That was never more evident than in a Week 9 Sunday night meeting with Cleveland in 2004.

Reed had already starred on Sunday Night Football earlier that season, registering a strip-sack and returning the fumble for a 22-yard touchdown in a narrow Week 5 win at Washington. This time around, the 4-3 Ravens were hoping to avoid a rare sweep to the Browns and keep themselves in good position for a playoff push in the second half of the season.

The game played out like so many contests of the Kyle Boller era with the Ravens managing little offense beyond the physical running of Jamal Lewis and relying on a strong defense to do the heavy lifting. Despite falling behind early in the fourth quarter, Baltimore had retaken a 20-13 lead after an embarrassing 7-yard punt by Cleveland’s Derrick Frost and a 2-yard touchdown run by Lewis with just over seven minutes to go.

But the Browns weren’t finished as veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia steadily moved his maligned offense down the field and inside the Baltimore 10. Facing a second-and-goal from the 5 with under a minute remaining and needing a touchdown to force overtime, Garcia zipped a pass over the middle that went through the hands of tight end Aaron Shea and was quickly falling to the turf.

Reed had other ideas, however.

As the M&T Bank Stadium crowd exploded at the sight of the shoe-top interception, Reed had no intention of simply taking a knee to preserve the single-touchdown lead. That was never Reed’s style — even to his detriment on occasion — as he sprinted an electrifying 106 yards for the game-sealing touchdown, the longest interception return in NFL history.

(This is where I share what this moment meant to me on a very personal level during the most difficult week of my life. I said from the start of the list unveiling that I’ve enjoyed different perspectives along the way, so I hope you’ll appreciate this one.)

“He seems to always be around it when you need it,” said head coach Brian Billick about Reed’s game-saving play after the 27-13 win. “He kind of waited to the end to do it. Might have saved my heart a little bit if he’d have done it earlier.”

The breathtaking touchdown was the signature play of his 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year season that included a league-leading nine interceptions and a then-record 358 interception return yards, but it was far from the last time we’d see a play like that from Reed.

Against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands the very next week, Reed picked off another end-zone pass and returned it 104 yards despite a holding penalty wiping away the touchdown. Four years later, the nine-time Pro Bowl safety would top his own record with a 107-yard pick-6 against Philadelphia, albeit in a less dramatic situation (see below).

You just never knew what was going to happen when Reed got his hands on the football, which is what made him so thrilling to watch.